“He’s no’ the full shill’n’.”
The famous Glasgow School of Art building recently caught fire, completely destroying the school’s iconic library and some final year students lost all their work. Luckily most of the art work and parts of the building were saved, thus ensuring the Charles Rennie Mackintosh masterpiece of design can continue its tradition of turning out many successful actors, artists, musicians and songwriters, designers and writers.
One soul in the Daily Mail comments column had a different take on the event however. Writing with a strange idea of grammar and punctuation, he admonished people’s concerns and by doing so shed some light on the rag’s readership demographic:
“No one died and no injuries, why all the fuss, it was only art and adds nothing to society except an activity for ‘creative’ people who do not want to work?”
The uglification of the world
Recently the car decided to create a problem for us by allowing its clutch to blow up. Very inconsiderate. While I was forgiving it during its lengthy stay in the local garage we had to resort to public transport. So there I was for the first time in quite a while at a bus stop. I recalled as a child bus shelters were ornate wooden structures that were relatively comfortable to sit in and kept out the weather extremely well. But this was a plastic rectangular box with a seat that one could barely sit on, with the wind howling through; basically a wind tunnel with a piece of plastic to lean on, not sit on. Ironically the bus stop was next to a wonderfully solid aesthetic Victorian building, a museum and art gallery, which only served to highlight the difference in the quality of design and building techniques of then and now. The bus journey was okay, but I noticed quite a few more ‘plastic’ type buildings on the journey. And then there was the train journey that followed; herded like cattle into very cramped seats, no buffet car and coffee that tasted like something else served from a trolley, announcements that one couldn’t quite hear, no windows to open, more reflection from the window than external views of the countryside and a station that looked very sad and the worse for wear. Where were the flower beds, the rococo roof and the friendly staff? I spent a while musing on how many modern day structures and services are designed and built – or older, once resplendent buildings left to decay – probably with the lowest common denominator in mind. No doubt all justified by economics, but in truth the result of an appalling lack of social and creative imagination and planning. I found myself newly realising why we chose the following quote for the magazine motto. We borrowed it from the 1988 movie The Unbearable Lightness of Being, based on the novel of the same name by Milan Kundera, directed by Philip Kaufman, and featuring Daniel Day Lewis, Juliette Binoche and Lena Olin. At one point in the movie Sabina (Lena Olin) says to her colleague, in a restaurant with piped music:
“Everywhere music’s turning into noise. Look. These plastic flowers… they even put them in water! And look out there, those buildings – the uglification of the world. The only place we can find beauty is if its persecutors have overlooked it. It’s a planetary process… and I can’t stand it.”
I see no ‘ships’
I’m fascinated by the evolution of our language, as monitored and brought into reality by our dictionaries. Here’s a new word I came across. The word ‘ship’ is most usually used to describe a nautical vessel. However ‘ship’ is now apparently also ‘a romantic relationship’. Example: “I have two friends Jim and Mary and I see a ship developing.” ‘Ship’ is also a verb meaning to want others to fall in love and is short for ‘to relationship’. I can think with the noun but I’m confused about the verb usage, despite reading the examples given in the dictionary. All this transformation of our language is strange, innit.
Slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
If you were alive in 1962 and had any interest in pop or rock music you may well remember the huge instrumental hit ‘Telstar’ by the Tornados. And if you are a lot younger, you should check out this piece of UK music history. For many weeks it was number one in the UK and the USA simultaneously, a first for a British band, and also a huge hit all around the world. It was written and produced by Joe Meek, and was well ahead of its time as regards the electronic sound he created, pre-dating the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper experiment by five years.
Meek produced many hits from his bedroom studio in London and I recently caught up with the 2008 film ‘Telstar: The Joe Meek Story’. While I thought the film was a trifle permissive with the facts, as did a number of Meek’s friends, it did give an insight into the vagaries of the music business and the precariousness of fame and fortune. Meek killed his landlady and himself in 1967 in a fit of depression and never saw any royalties for Telstar; a plagiarism claim against him was settled in his favour, but unfortunately not until three weeks after his death. Not wanting to sound trite or shallow, but in the same way that Vaughan Williams captures a certain essence of flight with his evocative ‘Lark Ascending’, Meek captures something of the flowering space age with his uplifting melody and cutting edge (for the times) production. Telstar was the name of one of one of the first communication satellites launched into space in an age of social progress and scientific optimism and the recording captures that early 60s zeitgeist perfectly. Meek’s work on the record and others he produced during his heyday were arguably the beginning of pop music entering into an era of technical evolution and electronic experimentation which the Beatles and others picked up and passed on and is now the norm. As with so many geniuses in the rock and pop world he died young, just 37 years old, yet another name on the way-too-long roster of creative mavericks whose talents we have lost too early.
The meaning of the word ingénue
Modernly the word ingénue tends to have a feminine slant in its usage, referring usually to a young creative girl or woman who is endearingly innocent and wholesome, very new to an artistic genre. However, the term comes from the French adjective ingénu meaning ingenuous or innocent. The term also implies a lack of sophistication and a simple naivety. It actually originates from a satirical novella by Voltaire called L’Ingénu published in the eighteenth century. As our magazine exists to promote emerging and re-emerging creative talent of any genre, and most creative beings (much like ourselves at this time) who are venturing forth on their career trajectories collide like sheep amongst wolves with such un-aesthetic things as economics, critics and the psychotic media, we thought the word quite appropriate for a title. Ingénu is the masculine form and ingénue the feminine form of the word and so we have coined the name ingénu/e.
The V peace sign
The two fingered V sign, palm outward, has come to symbolise peace and is the occasional celebrity sign given randomly while being photographed. Its origins are lost to some degree in myth, but famous iconic images of the sign are of Winston Churchill giving his famous V for Victory sign in 1943 and John Lennon and Yoko Ono preaching ‘make love not war’ from their hotel bedroom in 1969. Another iconic image is Richard Nixon inexplicably giving the sign the full monty with both hands in 1974 on the steps of the White House helicopter, after resigning to avoid being impeached as President of the United States. It was a bizarre thing to do as by the late sixties the sign had been usurped as a sign of peace by the Woodstock generation and all involved in the counter culture of the time were rabid opponents of Nixon and the Vietnam War. But he was a strange man. Even stranger than Bush Jnr, one could argue.
That was all over forty years ago and the sign is now an almost universal sign signifying peace and goodwill. It may be overused by celebrities and festival goers, but then again, I shouldn’t criticise. Considering other hand gestures that have been or are in common usage, such as the V sign with palm inward, the Nazi salute or the hand gesture commonly known as ‘the bird’, it’s endearing to think that the world over there is a symbol everyone understands that at least has a constructive and humanitarian message.
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
John Donne – 1572-1631.